It was only a matter of time before crypto and cellular collided. On Tuesday, Nova Labs, the company behind the Helium crowdsourcing network that provides connectivity for any IoT device, announced a five-year deal with wireless carrier T-Mobile.
The partnership allows anyone who subscribes to Helium Mobile, a crowdsourced 5G network, to access both Helium’s 5G network and T-Mobile’s wireless network across the United States.
Currently, Nova Labs has over 900,000 helium hotspots providing LongFi coverage around the world. The LongFi signals emitted by hotspots, along with devices like the Helium network, form the network Invoxia LongFi tracker to update its location while in range of a nearby hotspot.
The hotspots are installed by random people (which I am one of) and use a local internet connection as the backhaul for the network. In turn, hotspot owners are rewarded with crypto for every interaction on the network, even if data is transferred.
Since then, Nova Labs has expanded its offering from LongFi to 5G, with a total of just over 2,500 5G hotspots deployed at the time of T-Mobile’s announcement. The approach for the Helium 5G network is the same – 5G hotspot owners can install a 5G node and use their local internet connection to provide connections to nearby Helium Mobile subscribers. And in exchange for hosting a hotspot, the owner gets mobile token rewards.
But since Helium’s 5G network will be patchy at best, the deal with T-Mobile makes sense as more hotspot owners install 5G cells to expand and strengthen the network.
In addition to rewarding those who host a Helium 5G hotspot, Helium Mobile subscribers can choose to provide data on the network’s coverage and also earn mobile rewards.
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The service will be officially launched in the first quarter of 2023. Nova Labs notes that the service is designed for a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) approach, but the company is working with smartphone manufacturers to create “specialized, crypto-friendly handsets that validate network coverage more efficiently and offer their users Earn more mobile token rewards compared to generic BYOD phones.”
There’s no word on the monthly pricing for the service. However, if you want to set up your own hotspot to earn mobile tokens while providing coverage, you can check out the current selection of 5G hotspots.